Tag Archives: eating disorder

Eating Disorders on the Rise among Older Women

Although more common in teens and young women, eating disorders are affecting a growing number of older women, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. The research, led by Cynthia Bulik, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Eating Disorders Program at the University of North Carolina, surveyed 1,849 women aged 50 years and older from across the U.S. The survey included questions about eating disorder symptoms, dieting and body checking behaviors, and weight and shape concerns. Among the sometimes surprising results, 13 percent of those surveyed reported eating disorder symptoms such as excessive dieting, binge eating, and purging; 62 percent said that their weight or shape has a negative impact on their lives.

“The disorders have serious physical as well as emotional consequences,” said Bulik in a June 21 interview with USA Today. “Part of my goal is to make this an issue all doctors need to be aware of regardless of a woman’s age. Many think eating disorders end at age 25. They exist at every age, we’re finding.”

Although eating disorders have a serious negative impact on health at any age, the problems are compounded in older women, whose immune systems can be weaker and whose bone density is often lower. Bulik often sees severe osteoporosis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and cardiovascular health issues linked to eating disorders in older patients (American Medical Association online newsletter, July 9).

One of the country’s first residential treatment centers for eating disorders, the Renfrew Center reports a 42 percent increase over the last 10 years in the number of women aged 35 years and older seeking treatment at its clinics. Some of the center’s older patients have struggled with eating disorders or other weight issues for many years, while others developed an eating disorder for the first time later in life.

“We ask the question, what are the triggers to mid- and late-life eating disorders?” Bulik said in the USA Today interview. “They’re talking about divorce, loss, children leaving home, children coming home, being in the sandwich generation when you’re taking care of children and your parents…. Food can be seen as a way to regulate mood during these times.”

Some attribute part of the increase in eating disorders among older women to more frequent diagnoses based on doctors’ greater awareness of the issue. But whatever the cause, it’s clear that eating disorders are not limited to the young—and older women are seeking help more often as they struggle with weight and shape concerns.

What do you think? Have you noticed an increase in the number of older clients with symptoms of eating disorders? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

 

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Food for Thought on Eating Disorders

Research from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has found that following a steady increase in the number of hospitalizations for eating disorders from 1999 to 2007, the number of individuals checking into hospitals with these principal diagnoses has fallen by 23 percent from 2007 to 2009, the latest year for which numbers are available. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, with anorexia specifically being the leading cause of mortality in women between the ages of 15 and 24. During this time period, the severity of reported eating disorders decreased, as well.

However, patients found to have eating disorders were often hospitalized for other presenting conditions, such as depression, fluid or electrolyte disorders, schizophrenia, or alcohol-related issues. Statistics showed that although 90 percent of those suffering from eating disorders were female, eating disorders in men increased 53 percent since 2007.

In light of the recent decrease in eating disorders, from 1999 to 2009, hospitalizations skyrocketed 93 percent for the disorder pica. Pica is usually diagnosed in women and children and causes them to eat inedible materials like clay, dirt, chalk, or feces. During the 10-year period, the number of hospitalizations for patients with pica increased from 964 to 1,862.

Why do you think the number of eating disorders in general has gone down while the number of individuals diagnosed with pica has increased?

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